In the age of social media, the death of a Face Book user presents several concerns. The proper etiquette has not been yet established and leaves friends and family members questioning what the proper approach is. As the Face Book is accessible around the world, the phenomenon occurs all over the globe. According to Huffington Post, 30 million people who opened Face Book accounts have since past away.
The profile of abandoned accounts can be approached by several methods.
• The death is never reported to Face Book, and the account remains open, therefore available to post comments, ads and photo tags.
• The account can be switched to “memorial page” once the death is reported to Face Book staff. Local obituary or death certificate is required for the account to be switched to a different timeline.
• Immediate family members are able to file a petition to close the account, but will be required to forward a proof of relationship with the deceased.
• Court appointed access may be granted to continue the account allowing the members to post condolences, pictures and comments about the life of the diseased in a tasteful manner.
In 2009, Face Book revised its policy about the deceased members and allows the family, colleagues and friends to interact with the page as if it was active. However, the feature of public search is deactivated and only available to existing Face Book participants. The memories can be shared, and the comments in regards to past posts can be addressed.
If the individual’s page has to be memorialized, the existing members will not be able to leave messages other then condolences and comments. The automated app activity will also be disconnected. All inappropriate content will be removed, and status updates of sensitive nature may be deleted at the discretion of the Face Book staff.
If close family members choose to deactivate the profile of the diseased, the Face Book will most likely comply and honor the request. However, many family members choose to keep the profile as an online headstone where all people who were associated with the deceased can still visit and interact by posting their comments. Many Face Book members often share their private lives with the world, and their profile serves as a testament of their life’s accomplishments. Existing members can visit and pay tribute to the person they used to admire, love and stay in constant contact with.
For many people, Face Book has become a vehicle to vent their feelings and interact without the actual personal contact. The safety of the Internet allows the individuals to express their true feeling and grieve when their admired friends demise. It also allows the existing members to connect with each other and share their grief, life experiences and memories connected to the deceased. If the page remains unchanged, the profile may appear in Sponsored Stories and Face Book Suggestions creating painful remainders that the owner of the profile is no longer among the living. As the birthdays reappear annually, people send birthday wishes unaware the member has passed on.
Digital cemeteries are built around the memories of cherished loved ones. Face Book has become a natural way for people to grieve and keep the identity of a deceased person alive. The virtual space allows other people to show how deeply they are affected. However, may people feel that once the individual is gone, the Face Book profile should be deleted permanently not allowing anybody to display their emotions. The topic is highly subjective and delicate, and it is creating controversy among all users of the Face Book world. For many people, social network is a comfortable way to express their feelings while others find it distasteful and disrespectful.
Methods of mourning greatly differ across many cultures. What seems appropriate to some individuals may not be accepted by others. Expression of grief is highly personal, and it may be displayed differently in cyber society and physical world. Some users mistake the Face Book for the real grief counseling and try to deal with the loss of a loved one in their own way by showing their denial or depression on the pages of the Internet. They also look for confirmation of their grief from other members.
As the subject remains extremely controversial, legal battles have taken place to access the profiles of the deceased in search of answers. In the U.S., the laws greatly vary from state to state. Property rights without any physical substance are difficult to transfer as the legal system is still in its infancy stages of determining such transfers. The Face Book policy clearly states that the accounts cannot be transferred without a written permission. Transferring the account to the next of kin still remains an unsolved mystery.
The copyright laws and inconsistent state laws make the transfer of a Face Book account to a descendant difficult. In some cases the access is granted. The terms of service are not specific and confusion still exists as some of the Face Book accounts contain sensitive information and data. Digital legacy management agencies have been created to aid with the issue. Members can create emails to be delivered upon their demise and can designate recipients of their choice. Online arrangements and cremation services may be also included in addition to funeral planning.
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